The Chinese government is rebuffing the notion that its face masks exported to other countries were “defective” and suggested that the nations did not “double-check” the instructions.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday claimed in a tweet that the “true story” behind the alleged faulty face masks sent to the Netherlands was that the Chinese manufacturer explicitly “stated clearly that they are non-surgical.”
“Masks of various category offer different levels of protection, for day-to-day use and for medical purposes,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in the tweet. “[Please] double-check the instructions to make sure that you ordered, paid for and distributed the right ones. Do not use non-surgical masks for surgical purposes.”
The statement comes as the Dutch government recalled 600,000 of the Chinese-manufactured face masks for being defective and not meeting safety standards — over half of the 1.3 million total N-95 protective masks that were delivered to the Netherlands.
Hospitals in the country were requested to return the masks that did not properly fit on faces and prevent COVID-19 virus particles from making human contact. The N-95 mask is able to block out 95% of airborne particles when used properly.
“When they were delivered to our hospital, I immediately rejected those masks,” one hospital employee reportedly said to Dutch broadcaster NOS. “If those masks do not close properly, the virus particles can simply pass. We do not use them.”
Other countries have expressed concern with medical equipment manufactured in China. After purchasing 340,000 test kits from a Chinese manufacturer, Spain’s government claimed that 60,000 of them did not accurately test for COVID-19.
European Union Minister for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said in a blog post that the Chinese government was attempting to be perceived as an international ally in the “global battle of narratives.”
“China is aggressively pushing the message that, unlike the US, it is a responsible and reliable partner,” Borrell wrote. “In the battle of narratives, we have also seen attempts to discredit the EU as such and some instances where Europeans have been stigmatized as if all were carriers of the virus.”
Representatives from the Communist Party of China (CCP) in recent weeks have shifted the narrative surrounding the coronavirus’s origins by questioning its validity. Despite health officials and scientists widely agreeing that COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, China — likely from a wildlife market — government officials suggested that the US Army may have shipped the virus to China.
The Global Times, which operates under the Chinese government’s purview, also claimed in a tweet that Italy “may have had an unexplained strain of pneumonia” in November and December — around the same time as China reported its first positive case.
Identifying the remains of fallen soldiers from the Korean War is a long and arduous process. Given that it’s been sixty five years since the war ended and the North Koreans weren’t too keen on keeping the bodies labelled, it’s an extremely challenging — but not impossible — prospect.
But each passing year makes the challenge that much greater. Between the years 1990 and 1994, over 400 remains were repatriated back to the United States and, last month, we saw the return of 55 more. There have been many success stories within the identification process over the years, but it takes time.
The DPAA Laboratory at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, is the first U.S. stop for returned remains. The base is home to the largest and most diverse skeletal identification laboratory in the world, staffed by more than 30 anthropologists, archaeologists, and forensic odontologists, according to a United Nations Command release.
Any idea who or what you’re looking at here? Didn’t think so.
DNA remains one of the best tools for identification — but there is a downside. DNA matching doesn’t exactly work like many people believe. A sample profile looks something like this:
My hopes are that the family of Charles McDaniel has found peace.
(Department of Defense)
Without anything to compare it to, you’re just looking at a complex graph. The Department of Defense only starting keeping a library of service members’ DNA after 1991.
As morbid as it might sound, one thing that DNA evidence can catch conclusively is whether the remains are even human. The remains of British Royal Air Force Flight Lieutenant Desmond Hinton were set to be returned to the UK in 2011, but analysis concluded that the North Koreans gave the family back the bones of a dog instead. It is unknown at this time how many of the returned remains were not those of a human.
There is workaround in the case of unregistered DNA, however. A fallen service member’s DNA may still be floating around this world within their relatives. Children and siblings make for the easiest comparisons, but that process can only be done if there’s a way to connect the remains to living family or descendants — you can’t just go testing at random.
Remains that have been kept with their dog tags are, of course, much easier to identify. Given the name of the deceased, it becomes easier to track down anyone who may be a DNA match with the fallen. Bones are analyzed and the DNA is compared to that of the living relatives. If they’re a match, the family can get closure.
Unfortunately, there was only one set of dog tags returned and it still hasn’t been announced whether a successful match has been found.
For his efforts, he was awarded the Silver Star in 1996.
Another way of identifying a potential match for DNA testing is by comparing the list of the missing troops of a given battlefield to where the North Koreans believed that they found the remains. This is how many of the remains were accounted for after being transferred as part of 1954’s Operation Glory, during which both sides exchanged remains in accordance with the ceasefire treaty. But nearly all of the remains that were withheld were not found on the battlefield, but rather in a prisoner of war camp. The North Koreans have kept the existence of such camps very secretive, along with any associated headcounts or rosters. To date, there has only been one written record of Allied lives lost behind enemy lines — and it was a secret list, penned by Private First Class Johnnie Johnson.
Pfc. Johnson was a prisoner of war held captive by a North Korean major known only as “The Tiger.” For lack of a more polite word, it was a grueling hellhole that held over 700 American prisoners of war. The young Johnson risked his life every day by keeping an accurate record of every single troop’s name, rank, unit, hometown, and date of death if applicable. He was only one of 262 to walk out of that camp alive.
He managed to bring the list back hidden inside a tube of toothpaste. The “Johnnie Johnson List” of those held at The Tiger’s Camp came to light in 1995 and has been instrumental in the identification of the 496 remains.
The process of identifying these new remains will take a long time. The remains of 1st. Herman Falk were positively identified this week and plans are being made to honor the fallen soldier with a proper funeral. It should be noted that his remains were repatriated back in the 90s — and that the positive identification of others may take just as long. But the work won’t stop until each set of remains has been paid their just diligence.
Luck has quite a diverse meaning within the military community. It’s sarcastically used to laugh at impossible situations, it can take years to ponder why it was on your side that day or is just used to define coveted situations or duty stations a few of us fall into. With Saint Patrick’s Day fast approaching, we’re looking at some of the luckiest duty stations worldwide through the many different definitions of the word.
Lucky to be a part of such a prestigious assignment
U.S. Army Garrison Benelux-Brussels-Schinnen is one post where you’ll feel you have a finger on the pulse of the world. That’s because NATO headquarters, located less than ten minutes away, is there. Special status cards, ID’s and privileges may apply to service members and their families depending upon the assignment. With Brussels being the administrative center for the European Union, it can be an exhilarating and fast-paced atmosphere.
The city boasts 14th-century architecture, and the opportunity to rub elbows with top business and government figures of today. As such a unique experience both culturally, and as an assignment within the military, lucky is exactly the feeling you’ll have if stationed here.
Lucky to experience such a remote location
U.S. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll‘s location requires several zooms in if you’re searching on Google Maps. Home to the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, turquoise waters, and coral reefs for miles. With its ultra remote location, the cultural history of The Marshall Islands is something you’ll remember experiencing forever.
Ancient skills like “wave piloting” have been studied by anthropologists for some time now and are stories or skills families can see firsthand. Remote island life happiness hinges on acclimation. It’s important to remember you won’t be marooned forever and begin to embrace as much sailing, snorkeling or scuba diving as humanly possible between shifts.
Lucky to stand on such historic ground
Hawaii tops many duty station lists for its beautiful location, but an assignment to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam is much more than a vacation. It’s the chance to stand at the center of one of history’s most iconic moments in time.
With the Pearl Harbor National Memorial essentially in your back yard, it’s time to take that deep dive into the pages of history. Those assigned here should feel lucky to inherit the legacy of this location and do their best to carry on the stories of those forever immortalized in her waters.
Lucky to live in a vacation destination
The Naval Air Station Pensacola is located along the pristine shorelines of the Florida panhandle, a year-round tourist destination. What caught our eye was the opportunity to not just live in a beach town but living oceanfront is made possible via affordable condo living. Who needs a gym membership when your daily swim can be in the Gulf of Mexico?
Another appealing feature of an assignment here is the potential to dive into the military landlord market. Rental opportunities are expanded to include vacation renters in addition to the military crowd.
Lucky to have a “home base” to experience Asia from
Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni is located on the main island of Japan, near the Yamaguchi Prefecture. If you’d have trouble pinpointing that on a map, you’re not alone. Cities like Hiroshima, Tokyo, Shanghai, and Seoul are all major metros within the geographic area. Flying from the United States to Asia is not cheap, making travel either costly, lengthy (to get it all done in one trip) or both. Being stationed halfway across the world has a major travel perk. What used to be a 12-hour plane ride is now two. Becoming conversationally fluent in the many Asian languages is also much easier while you’re completely immersed within it. We’re confident you’ll feel lucky to have such a unique and culturally rich experience in your life.
This article is sponsored by Propper, the guys dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. In addition to the Propper gear that’s perfect for the mission, we’ve scoured the market for the very best from other brands to build out a kit that will have you hitting the range, ready for action.
It’s time to train up. Whether you’re worried about anarchists, cultists, or voodoo priests summoning the living dead, your firearms aren’t doing you any good just sitting in a safe. You gotta train for the competition, for the fight, or just for the fun of it. But if your gear bag is a little light (or maybe you’re lacking the bag itself), here are some great items to get you ready to rock:
Propper® 36-inch Rifle Case — (.99)
First of all, speaking of that bag, you need something that keeps all your gear tight together if you don’t want to be bobbling your mags, ear protection, gloves, weapon, and coffee while heading out the door. Know what’s good for that? The Propper® 36-inch Rifle Case.
It’s got side pockets for the mags, MOLLE webbing for anything you want to attack, and padding to protect the goods inside. Just remember to store the ammo in another section of the car during the drive if you live in a place that requires that. This bad boy is so easy to schlep around that you might just forget what you’re carrying.
Awesafe Electronic Shooting Earmuffs — (.99)
At the range, you double-check your gear and start getting ready to fire. Your rifle is in good mechanical condition and you apply a little lubricant to make sure it’ll move freely.
But before you head to the firing line, you want to make sure you have all your protective gear. Gloves if you roll like that, knee pads if you have achy joints (or are just a wuss — you know who you are), and ear protection if you just want to be able to hear your children’s voices at some point in the future. Nothing too crazy, just Awesafe Electronic Shooting Earmuffs for amplifying low sounds and cutting down the little explosions of each shot you take.
TANTQTourniquet — (.97)
And, just in case of emergency, you pull out your first aid kit and make sure all the components are there. It shouldn’t come up, but trauma care is one of those things you don’t need until you do. So, you pack a simple kit with some gear you grabbed from some medics and corpsmen over the years.
Sure, you’ve got a nasopharyngeal airway and some chest seals that fell off the ambulance, but the things you always carry in your pocket around firearms and potentially treacherous areas are your TANTQTourniquets with windlass and cold-resistant buckles that won’t break just because it’s chilly and you take a fall.
You won’t, shouldn’t, and don’t need ’em… until you do.
Propper® Carbon Carry Belt — (.99)
You slap the tourniquets into the drop pouch hanging from your Propper® Carbon Carry Belt, the kind of belt you can wear to church or work without raising eyebrows. It’s made to fit any holster, either inside or outside the waistband, meaning it’s good both at the range for doing some quick drills or working security for a VIP who needs to blend in without sacrificing protection. Perfect.
Wiley X® Valor — (.50)
You’re a couple steps to the door before you mutter, “Ah, crap,” and double back to the driver’s side. With eye protection as comfortable as the Wiley X® Valor, it’s easy to get in the habit of wearing them everyday and keeping them in the car like standard sunglasses.
But you really buy glasses like these to protect your eyes and their sockets from shrapnel, debris, and burning gunpowder if something goes wrong on the range. Ballistic protection isn’t just for when you’re being shot at.
Pocket Pro Timer II — (1.58)
At your firing position, you pull out the training tools that help you get better, day-by-day, shoot-by-shoot.
Your Pocket Pro Timer II can clip to your belt or sit on the ground or ledge, but it’s easy to program and start in any position, so you’re not fumbling with buttons when you’re trying to start your drill or check your final time. And with a 105dB buzzer, it can make itself heard even if you’re doubling up on hearing protection.
Sturdy Tiger 12″ Camera Tripod — (.99)
You set the timer up to sit on the ground in front of you, just in front of your Sturdy Tiger 12-inch Flexible Tripod, perfect for holding GoPros, cell phones, or most any other small recording device. You had originally grabbed it, sheepishly, just to record a little video so you could look for the minute mistakes that might be slowing you down or reducing your accuracy.
But once you started watching the videos, you realized that you actually look pretty good some days, and now you’ve shared a couple videos to YouTube and other sites for your friends to watch and critique. There’s even a remote for triggering it from afar, and the flexible legs can hold onto your weapon, a pole or firing stake, or just support it off the ground.
Putting it on the weapon does throw off the balance and weight, though, obviously. But that barrel video is pretty sweet…
Time to go full Deadwood on them. You may not look as good as Timothy Olyphant, but you’re trying to have some fun while taking some shots, not competing with some pretty boy. With everything set up, you start pumping rounds down range, churning through a little ammo and a few hours.
But then, your phone chimes and you check your messages. The spouse needs you back home sooner rather than later, meaning you’re not gonna get as much time to clean up as you would like.
AIRSSON Bore Cleaner Snake — (.99)
After clearing your weapon and policing up some brass, you make sure to get everything back into your bag and, before you go, run your AIRSSON Bore Cleaner Snake through your barrel a couple times. You may not have time for a full cleaning right now, but you’re still going to get what you can of the worst of the carbon out of the chamber and barrel, and the bore snakes makes that a snap with metal braiding.
You pull out in your car and head toward the house, the lingering smell of nitrocellulose filling your clothes and the car. It might’ve been cut short, but still a pretty good start to the weekend.
This article is sponsored by Propper, the guys dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others.
Marine Corps boot camp is a slice of hell that turns civilians into modern-day Marines.
With constant physical training, screaming drill instructors, and so much close-order drill recruits eventually have dreams about it, spending 12 weeks at boot camp in Parris Island, South Carolina or San Diego, California can be difficult for most young people.
Having stepped off a bus and onto the yellow footprints at Parris Island on Sep. 3, 2002, one of those young people was me. While in hindsight, boot camp really wasn’t that bad, I thought then that it was the worst thing ever. While writing this post, I thought I would speak in general terms, but since my mother kept all my correspondence home, I figured I would go straight to the source: my original — and now-hilarious-to-read — letters back home.
Drill instructors are the worst.
Having a crazy person with veins popping out of their neck scream in your face and run around a barracks throwing stuff can be quite a shock to someone who was a civilian a week prior. Although I later learned to greatly respect my DI’s, I didn’t really like them at the beginning, as my first letter home showed.
“Our DI’s are complete motherf—king a–holes. There’s no other way to describe them,” I wrote, before including a great example: “Today they sprayed shaving cream and toothpaste ALL OVER the head and we had to clean it up. Yesterday, threw out all of our gear, had to change the racks, and sh– was flying.”
Sounds about right.
My recruiter totally lied to me.
It’s a running joke in the Marine Corps (and the greater military, really) that your recruiter probably lied to you. Maybe they didn’t lie to you per se, but they were selective with what they told you. One of my favorites was that “if I didn’t like my job as infantry, I could change it in two years.” That’s one of those not-totally-a-lie-but-far-fetched-truths.
In my initial letter, I took issue with my recruiters for telling me that drill instructors don’t ever get physical. Most of the time they won’t touch you, but that’s not exactly all the time.
“Oh, by the way, recruiters are lying bastards. They [the drill instructors] scream, swear a lot, and choke/push on a daily basis,” I wrote. (It was day three and I was of course exaggerating).
Mail takes forever to get there.
Getting mail at boot camp is a wonderful respite from the daily grind at boot camp, but letters are notoriously slow to arrive. In my letters home, I complained about mail being slow often, since I’d ask questions in my letters then get a response of answers and more questions from home, well after I was through that specific event in the training cycle.
“Sometimes I write more letters than everyone back home and I have way less time to do it,” I wrote in one letter.
The other recruits were terrible.
I’m sure they said the same thing about me. Put 60-80 people from completely different backgrounds and various regions of the United States and you’re probably going to have tension. Add drill instructors into the mix constantly stressing you out and it’s guaranteed.
Then of course, there’s the issue of the “recruit crud,” the nickname for the sickness that inevitably comes from being in such close proximity with all these different people.
Throughout my letters home, I complain of other recruits not yelling loud enough or running fast enough. “They don’t sound off and we are getting in trouble all the time,” I wrote. No doubt I was just echoing what the drill instructor has given us as a reason for why he was bringing us to the dreaded “pit.”
Getting “pitted” is the worst five minutes of your life.
Marine boot camp has two unique features constantly looming in the back of a recruit’s mind: the “pit” and the quarterdeck. The quarterdeck for recruits is the place at the front of the squad bay where they are taken and given “incentive training,” or I.T. — a nice term for pushups, jumping jacks, running-in-place, etc — for a few minutes if they do something wrong.
But for those times when it’s not just an individual problem — and more of a full platoon one — drill instructors take them to sand pits usually located near the barracks for platoon IT. Think of them as the giant sandboxes you played in as a kid, except this one isn’t fun. For extra fun, DI’s may play a game of “around the world,” where the platoon is run from one pit to another.
An unidentified veteran walked up to the Georgia State Capitol on the morning of June 26, 2018 and casually set himself on fire using a combination of gasoline and fireworks. He was protesting his treatment by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
FOX’s Atlanta affiliate is reporting that the veteran was quickly extinguished by officers of the Georgia State Patrol and that no one else was injured in the protest or its aftermath. No, the man was not rushed to a VA medical center. Instead, an ambulance took the injured veteran to nearby Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.
The explosion caused by the fireworks could be heard during press conferences happening elsewhere on the Capitol grounds, according to FOX 5 Atlanta, who was covering a discussion about Georgia’s new hands-free traffic safety law, taking effect on July 1st. State troopers at that conference made a beeline for the self-immolating veteran.
You can hear the explosions and the reactions of the Georgia Patrol starting around 4:10.
It’s a lucky thing a handful public safety officers from the Georgia State Patrol happened to be on hand for the hands-free law announcement.
Initially, the series of explosions was thought to be a series of actual bombs detonating around the Capitol area, and the Atlanta bomb squad was called on to the scene, according to FOX 5’s Aungelique Proctor.
Later, the bomb squad’s focus was on the white vehicle in which the still-unknown injured veteran arrived to the Georgia Capitol. The Georgia State Patrol and Georgia Bureau of Investigation is also on the scene as the story develops.
The Taliban are seizing new territory, civilian casualties and US military deaths are once more on the rise, and insider attacks on American and Afghan forces have more than doubled this year. That’s the grim reckoning of a US inspector general’s report released Oct. 26 even as the Pentagon and allied forces seek to implement President Trump’s strategy for the 16-year-old conflict.
The central government in Kabul has ceded more territory to the Taliban since the early days of the Afghanistan War, with the terrorist group now in full or partial control of 54 of the country’s districts, according to the latest quarterly survey to Congress from the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
The report contains sobering findings for Mr. Trump and his generals, even as the parallel war against Islamic State and other radical terrorist movements in Syria and Iraq has made significant gains this year.
The Taliban, which are mainly concentrated within the eastern and southern segments of the country, claimed control of nine districts previously held by government forces over the past six months. As a result, more than 3.7 million Afghans, or just over 11 percent of the country’s entire population, now live under the radical Islamist movement’s control, the SIGAR inspectors found.
Those gains come despite a marked uptick in US combat operations in Afghanistan, where American and allied forces executed more airstrikes against Taliban and Islamic State strongholds in the country than in any year since 2014. US and NATO forces carried out 2,400 airstrikes during an eight-month period this year against insurgent targets tied to the Taliban and forces loyal to Islamic State’s Afghan cell.
American and allied forces executed over 700 airstrikes against insurgent targets in Afghanistan in September alone, in line with the hard-line wartime strategy for Afghanistan that Mr. Trump outlined in August.
“Afghanistan is at a crossroads,” said SIGAR head John F. Sopko. “President Donald Trump’s new strategy has clarified that the Taliban and Islamic State-Khorosan will not cause the United States to leave. At the same time, the strategy requires the Afghan government to set the conditions that would allow America to stay the course.”
The downbeat SIGAR findings — its 37th quarterly survey of the war — come amid reports that the US military has begun to restrict the information flow on the war as the conflict grinds on. The New York Times reported this week that the Pentagon has stopped providing figures on the size of the Afghan security and police forces, the state of their equipment, and Afghan casualty figures.
The Pentagon told the newspaper that the information was being withheld at the request of the Afghan government, but even the SIGAR report released this week revealed that the Afghan army and the national police force had a net loss of manpower in the most recent reporting period.
Roughly 3,900 more US troops are being funneled into Afghanistan to support the 8,400 soldiers, sailors, and Marines already there, with a majority supporting the NATO-led adviser mission dubbed Operation Resolute Support. Other American troops, mostly special operations units, are conducting counter-terrorism missions against the Taliban and Islamic State under a separate mission.
Mr. Trump’s blueprint abandons the timeline-based approach to the American mission in Afghanistan in favor of a “conditions based” strategy. Administration critics claim the decision will effectively restart US-led combat operations in Afghanistan, which officially ended in late 2014 under President Obama and draw the US into an open-ended conflict.
While officials in the Pentagon and their counterparts in the government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani claim the shift will provide much-needed reassurance to the Afghan Security Forces, the situation on the ground shows that fight will likely be much tougher than anticipated.
Despite the uptick in US action, the Taliban continue to carry out high-profile attacks, including some in the heart of Afghanistan’s capital.
Roughly 90 people were killed and over 400 wounded, including 11 American contractors, in a brazen suicide attack on the German Embassy in Kabul in May. The attack was one of the worst to hit the capital since US and NATO forces ended combat operations in the country in 2014.
On Oct. 31, four people were killed and 13 wounded in a suicide attack inside the “green zone” — the heavily fortified sector in central Kabul that is home to the US Embassy and the Afghan presidential palace. Members of ISIS-K carried out the Oct. 31 attack, according to reports from Amaq news agency, the main social media propaganda network for Islamic State.
When the US ended combat operations three years ago, the Ghani government held roughly 60 percent of the country, according to government-led analysis, as well as reviews by private-sector analysts.
But those gains appear to be slipping from Kabul’s grasp, and the Taliban’s gains in the country over the past six months have taken a toll on the country’s military.
Battlefield casualties continue to increase among the ranks of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, while Kabul continues to combat high levels of attrition among the country’s armed forces. The Afghan army’s ranks have dropped by 4,000 troops and the national police lost 5,000 people, according to SIGAR’s latest findings.
By contrast, the Taliban continue to show signs of strength within their traditional base in the southern and eastern parts of the country, but also in northern and western Afghanistan, where they had not had significant sway in the past.
Hundreds of Taliban fighters amassed in the western Afghanistan’s Farah province during a show of force in October. The gathering, posted as part of the group’s propaganda videos, showed the Afghan jihadis assembling in broad daylight without fear of being targeted by Afghan and coalition forces, according to analysis by the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
In a rare interview with The Guardian, senior Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Saeed said Washington’s new aggressive approach would not be enough to turn the tide against the group.
Since “150,000 Americans couldn’t beat us,” the 4,000 troops Mr. Trump has authorized “will not change the morale of our mujahedeen,” Mullah Saeed said. “The Americans were walking in our villages, and we pushed them out.”
He said the Taliban would consider a peace deal, but only on the condition that the “foreigners must leave, and the constitution must be changed to [Islamic] Shariah law.”
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Photo from US State Department.
Peace talks, possibly including the Taliban, have also been a key part in the White House’s Afghanistan strategy. On Nov. 1, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson reiterated that the administration was open to peace talks with the Taliban, though not with Islamic State elements in Afghanistan.
“There are, we believe, moderate voices among the Taliban, voices that do not want to continue to fight forever. They don’t want their children to fight forever,” Mr. Tillerson said during his unannounced visit to Kabul.
“We are looking to engage with those voices and have them engage in a reconciliation process leading to a peace process and their full involvement and participation in the government,” the top US diplomat added.
Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to hold peace talks with the Taliban in 2013, coinciding with the Taliban’s unprecedented move to open a political office in Doha that year. At the time, officials in the Obama administration saw the potential talks as a vehicle to help accelerate the withdrawal of US forces from the country by 2014. But Pakistan’s decision to withdraw from the talks eventually scuttled any effort to reach a deal with the terrorist group.
Featured Image: 1st Sgt. David W. Christopher and Army Staff Sgt. Gordon M. Campbell stand by after setting fire to a Taliban shelter along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. (Army photo by Spc. Matthew Leary)
With the spread of the coronavirus around the country, we saw the unprecedented stoppage of sporting events around the world and in the United States. Starting with several universities canceling conference tournaments, the NCAA decided to ban crowds from its venerable tournament. That alone was big news until the NBA suspended operations after a player tested positive. The resulting snowball turned into an avalanche the likes of which we have never seen. Play stopped after 9/11 and the Kennedy assassination, but not like this. We will see how things shape up long-term but in the meantime, we can start to wonder what comes next.
After the positive test of Rudy Gobert (two days after his ill-conceived hijnks with the press corps’ mics and recorders), the NBA immediately suspended operations. While Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner said that it would be about 30 days at this point, the season could still be in jeopardy if the spread of the coronavirus worsens.
We can be looking at the NBA picking up with the playoffs and running them into July. Not a bad prospect, but there are many things to consider outside of the virus. The NBA has to worry about TV revenue (a big portion comes from playoff broadcasts); the loss of revenue may affect player salaries and negotiations and potentially the draft lottery. The Olympics and players’ union requirements will also factor into the future of the NBA season.
In almost the same category as the NBA (minus the Olympics), the NHL suspended their season after the NBA. With multiple teams sharing the same locker rooms and facilities, it made sense. We can also be looking at hockey in the summertime as well. The league can pick up with the playoffs (which, in my humble opinion, is the greatest playoffs in any sport), but other questions also factor in as well. You will also have to deal with the players’ union here. Players might not get paid during this time, so look to management and unions to work closely to make sure the suspensions for both the NBA and NHL don’t cause labor issues as well.
The NHL has asked teams to make sure that arenas are available through the end of July, but that also brings up logistics. Running both the NBA and NHL with adapted schedules into the summer might be too much to sort out.
The NHL does have a rule that says that in the event of a shutdown, the team with the most points would be the Stanley Cup champion if the season doesn’t continue. That would mean the Boston Bruins (ugh) might get the Cup. I don’t even think Bruins fans would be happy if it ended that way.
Well, the good news is you wont get insanely mad this year that the girl at work who picked winning teams based on which mascots were “cuter” will have a better bracket than your highly researched, data-driven bracket.
Joking aside, March Sadness is real. The NCAA decided to cancel both the Men’s and Women’s tournaments and it looks like they will not be rescheduled at this point. The bad news continued when word spread that both the Men’s and Women’s College World Series were also canceled. Most schools and athletic conferences have canceled or suspended team sports.
The NCAA will lose a lot of TV money due to the cancellation of the Big Dance. And a lot of sponsors, advertisers, and corporate partners won’t get the return on investment they would from the exposure.
But…. The real losers in this is the student athletes. Not going to get into if they should get paid or not, but the fact remains that a lot of seniors across many sports just saw their athletic careers potentially end with a series of press releases.
Will players lose this year of eligibility? Will they be able to come back next year? That question looms large as scholarships and recruiting come into play. Most schools have also canceled recruiting activities as well so look to see the fallout from that.
College football has been affected with the cancellation of spring games and practices. Look for more schools shutting down football activities in the next 2-3 weeks.
Even the most die-hard baseball fans would have to admit there has been an attendance problem the last few years. Ticket sales have dropped, and teams have struggled to fill the seats. Luckily, the TV money is what moves the league now. But when the coronavirus news spread, MLB was forced to cancel all spring training games and have, for now, pushed back Opening Day by two weeks.
Believe it or not, this might be good for baseball long term. There have been calls to shorten the season to the original 154 game length or even more. Fewer games might make things more meaningful in the dog days of summer and keep attention spans locked in. But there are major drawbacks too. Instead of baseball owning the summer like they usually do, they will have to potentially compete with the NBA, NHL, Olympics and MLS who now will be on TV as well.
Right now, the NFL has not been affected much other than practice facilities being closed down. But the big question right now is the draft. Scheduled to take place in Vegas this year, the NFL might be skittish to have the event with such a large crowd attending. League meetings have also been postponed and players will soon find out if they have to attend dreaded OTA this summer.
While most leagues have a security blanket to fall back on for now, the upstart reincarnation of the XFL doesn’t, so it made sense that they were among the last to announce the end of their 2020 season. The first year for any new sports league is tough. What makes this bittersweet was that the XFL was doing really well and had a lot of good press. (Those sideline interviews were pretty awesome.)
It sounds like the league has enough capital to get it through its first three years, but the loss of exposure will hurt. That being said, look for Vince McMahon and his team to come back stronger in 2021.
NASCAR flirted with the idea of racing with no fans in the stands. While it would suck for fans wanting to attend, there was hope that racing would still continue as planned. But it looks like the first race since the news, set to take place in Atlanta, has now been postponed. NASCAR has an extremely long schedule from February to October so it will be interesting to know if these races will be raced at all this year. As more states issue decrees prohibiting large gatherings, look for the potential for more cancelled races.
The most expensive and glamorous sport in the world was put into park yesterday when the Australian Grand Prix, the official start of the F1 season, was cancelled. It was surprising it got that far. The McClaren team had already pulled out due to a team member testing positive for coronavirus, and the likelihood that all teams and drivers who hang out in the paddock and pit lane have been exposed is high.
But the organizers waited until right when fans were lining up before cancelling. This morning, they also cancelled the Bahrain and Vietnam Grand Prix, which were to be held next. The Chinese Grand Prix had already been postponed
With the events rotating around the world, it is hard to imagine Formula 1 (as well as Formula 2 and Formula E) being able to transport hundreds of drivers, mechanics, engineers, team members, tv crews, and logistic personnel around the world without any risk. There is a good chance most of the season might be scrapped.
Major League Soccer announced a delay in the season relatively quick. The Women’s and Men’s teams also cancelled friendlies that had been scheduled. MLS has grown rapidly in teams and fans the last few years, so this is a setback as far as capitalizing on the growth. That being said, the biggest challenge to MLS would be when play resumes. They have held their own (and then some) competing with baseball in the summer. But a delayed NBA and NHL schedule would definitely hurt attendance and most importantly TV ratings.
Champions League and European Soccer
Leagues across the continent have been cancelled. Serie-A, Italy’s top tier league was the first following the disastrous outbreak that has gripped that nation. Spain followed suit with La Liga. Today the English Premier League and the German Bundesliga have been suspended as well. These leagues were headed into the final part of their season. While they don’t have playoffs like American league sports, they do have a promotion and relegation system in place. A prolonged suspension could cause significant issues with that, as promotion into top tiers and relegation into lower level tiers usually results in a gain or loss of tens of millions of dollars.
The PGA yesterday announced the suspension of all tournaments up to the Masters, giving sports fans around the country hope that the “Tradition Unlike Any Other” would survive the onslaught of cancellations. But hope died this morning when the Masters put out a statement saying all activities would be postponed. Much like NASCAR and Formula 1, the steady stream of events on the calendar might make it hard for even a venerable event like this to be held this year.
The massive summer event will be held in Tokyo, Japan this year. While we don’t have any word yet on the impact to the Summer Games, national teams and governing bodies have put a hold on training and activities while the coronavirus is dealt with. The growth of the virus will have an effect on the Games if things get out of control. The mass amount of people that would come into and exit Japan for the one-month sports extravaganza would likely test the government’s abilities to track any carriers from countries that have had outbreaks. That is, unless they ban certain countries from attending. In all likelihood, look for the Olympics to keep things on track as is and look to see what other sports leagues and organizations do in the next few months.
While the loss of sports is huge, and the impact on local economies will suffer, we do want to note that it seems like all leagues, organizations and government officials are doing the right thing during this time of uncertainty. Hopefully it is all over soon and we can back to being fans again.
Tony Garcia knew he was in trouble. He was diagnosed with PTSD and was starting to understand why he was feeling disconnected and depressed – but he was still feeling alone in his experiences as a Vietnam War veteran.
“We were trained to be a sharp blade for fighting,” Garcia said, “but we were never shown how to come back home. I felt like nobody understood me.”
The years of silently dealing with his time in Vietnam as a soldier had nearly caught up to Garcia when he started attending weekly group counseling sessions at the newly established VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System in 2011. He and 10 other veterans were some of the first veterans to meet in the new space in Harlingen, Texas, and the more his fellow veterans shared their experiences the more he recognized the similarities in their struggles.
It’s this group of veterans, and the stories they shared with each other at VA, that Garcia credits with changing his outlook on life and giving him new purpose.
Guardians of the Flag: Veterans honor legacy of Vietnam War
“That gave me the tools I needed to keep moving forward,” he said. “If it hadn’t been for the VA and the therapy – I would still be lost in my depression.”
It was during one of his group meetings that Garcia learned of a special piece of history that somehow found its way to South Texas.
One of the veterans began talking about his experience at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon before it fell to North Vietnamese forces in April 1975. The Marine and Rio Grande Valley native recalled how in the middle of trying to evacuate the compound he encountered two employees trying to destroy the ceremonial flag in Ambassador Martin’s office. According to the story, the veteran approached the men who were apparently angry that they would not be evacuated and wrestled the flag from them before they could further damage it.
The veteran, who asked Garcia to keep his identity private, took the flag home with him to South Texas and kept it in his home for about 30 years. After his wife asked him to get rid of the tattered flag, the veteran gave it to a friend in a neighboring town with instructions to pass the flag along to another veteran should he ever need to part with it too.
“I couldn’t believe what they were telling me,” Garcia said. “I couldn’t believe the flag had made it all the way here and it was in somebody’s garage.”
At that time, it was an amazing story that piqued Garcia’s interest. He felt a connection to the flag even then, but he wouldn’t get to see or hold it until a few years later when his fellow veterans asked if he would take it.
“They didn’t know what to do with the flag, so they offered it to me,” Garcia said, “and immediately I said I would take it and care for it.”
Tony Garcia (left) and his fellow Warriors United in Arms members move the ceremonial flag in Brownsville, Texas.
Garcia, who had recently founded a veterans organization with several of his friends, decided the flag would not be hung up on a wall in his home or stay in storage. As the Warriors United in Arms of Brownsville, the group would find a way to protect, display, and tell the story of the flag they all felt a deep connection with.
“I really do believe this flag represents the American fighting man in Vietnam,” Garcia said. “This flag represents everything we went through as Vietnam War Veterans. Like the flag we all went and did what Uncle Sam wanted, and like the flag we were disrespected when we came home . . . I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t forgotten.”
Today, the ceremonial flag is encased and held in the main vault at the IBC Bank in Brownsville, Texas. Garcia and his fellow warriors frequently take it to local schools, businesses and events. They tell the story of how the flag founds its way to them, and they explain why it’s such an important symbol.
On 2019s Vietnam War Veterans Day, the group will display the flag at the VA clinic where Garcia first heard its amazing story. The goal, Garcia said, is to help Vietnam War veterans and show them that they are not alone.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
A Marine helicopter was illuminated by a laser fired from an Iranian vessel in the Strait of Hormuz June 14. The incident occured days after a U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle shot down a drone over Syria that was later determined to be from Iran.
“Illuminating helicopters with lasers at night is dangerous as it creates a navigational hazard that can impair vision and can be disorienting to pilots using night vision goggles,” Commander Bill Urban, a 5th Fleet spokesperson said.
USNI News reported that the Iranian vessel was a missile boat, and approached the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5), the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) and the Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ship USNS Washington Chambers (T-AKE 11) on the night of June 13.
According to the report, the Iranian missile boat shined a spotlight on the Cole, then painted a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter with a laser, before running a spotlight on the Bataan. The Iranian missile boat came within 800 yards of the U.S. Navy vessels.
More than 100 midshipmen man the rails for a photo on the foícísle of the guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) during the 2016 Professional Training for Midshipmen (PROTRAMID) Surface week. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan Seelbach)
According to MilitaryFactory.com, the CH-53E is a heavy-lift cargo helicopter capable of carrying up to 55 troops. It has a top speed of 195 miles per hour and a range of up to 1,140 miles. It is capable of being refueled in midair by tankers like the KC-130. For self-defense it carries chaff and flare dispensers to defeat enemy missiles, and it has three ,50-caliber machine guns.
Ever since the release of Star Wars back in 1977, fans have dreamed of journeying to a galaxy far, far away to hop in the cockpit and take the controls of a starfighter. With the release of Star Wars: Squadrons, that dream is closer than it has ever been. Harnessing the power of virtual reality, Squadrons allows players to take part in epic space battles piloting eight different starships. The entire game can also be played using a VR headset and joystick for increased immersion.
Squadrons puts you in the cockpit (EA Games)
Squadrons features a single-player campaign that takes place after the events of Return of the Jedi and tells the story of two rival squadrons. The player follows both Vanguard Squadron of the New Republic and Titan Squadron of the Imperial Remnant. In the wake of the Battle of Endor, the New Republic is building a new class of starship that will help them defeat the Empire once and for all. With the deaths of Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader, the Imperial Remnant gains wind of this new starship and seeks to stop its creation. The player will fly on both sides of the conflict, meeting both new and familiar characters along the way.
Throughout the campaign, the player will be introduced to the four different classes of ships available in Squadrons—the Fighter Class, Interceptor Class, Bomber Class, and Support Class. For the New Republic, players can fly the T-65B X-Wing Fighter, RZ-1 A-Wing Interceptor, BTL-A4 Y-Wing Bomber, and the UT-60D U-Wing Starfighter/Support Craft. With the Imperial Remnant, players can pilot the Sienar Systems TIE/In Space Superiority Starfighter, TIE/IN Interceptor, TIE/sa Bomber, and TIE/rp Reaper Attack Lander. Each ship class offers unique strengths and weaknesses and must be flown accordingly to achieve maximum combat effectiveness. For example, while interceptors are quick and agile, they are not as effective at attacking capital ships as bombers.
Highlighting the detail put into the game’s development, the starships of each faction fly as differently as the different classes as a result of differing starfighter doctrine between the New Republic and Imperial Remnant. The Rebel Alliance and subsequent New Republic placed an emphasis on pilot survivability. As a result, all of their ships carry shield generators. The Imperial Navy, however, was originally designed to maintain order, not fight a war. As a result, the TIE Fighter is unshielded, a cost-saving measure implemented by the Empire in its design. Additionally, Imperial TIE Fighter doctrine emphasized offensive operations against small uprisings. To fit this role, the TIE Fighter offers excellent forward visibility thanks to its large front window, but offers little in the way of upward and rearward visibility. Side visibility is nonexistent due to the TIE fighter’s large vertical wings.
Battles take place over a multitude of new and familiar locations (EA Games)
Each starship offers players a different experience, since they can only be flown in first-person view. Ship customization, both internally and externally, is available. Though, because players will only see the inside of their ships during combat, external modifications like paint schemes will serve more to differentiate the player to other pilots.
To further increase the game’s immersion, Squadrons gives players the option to completely remove the traditional floating HUD. Instead, players can opt to have all relevant information displayed natively on the cockpit’s dash readouts. With this option, weapon systems, engine performance, shield status (if applicable), and even radar must be read on individual screens while the player simultaneously scans the battlefield. Players must also manage these systems, transferring power between them as the situation dictates. Getting blasted from your 6 o’clock? Allocate all power to your shields to keep from getting turned into space scrap. No shields on your TIE Fighter? Overcharge those engines and get the heck out of there. Maybe you have an unsuspecting enemy fighter lined up for the kill. Send all power to your laser cannons and vaporize them.
All of these Starfighter characteristics carry over into the game’s multiplayer mode as well. Players can fly in the traditional 5v5 Dogfight mode where victory is determined by kill count, but the premiere multiplayer mode in Squadrons is Fleet Battles. These multistage conflicts start in a social hub where each team devises a strategy. Players then launch from their respective hangars and attempt to push the frontline to the enemy’s side. Depending on which way the frontline moves, teams will have to defend or attack two capital ships accordingly. The final stage will have players attacking or defending a flagship with a shield generator, power, and targeting subsystems. Crossplay is also enabled, allowing players across gaming platforms to play together.
Maintain your situational awareness (EA Games)
The game’s developer, Motive Studios, has said that the game is not a live service. While the game could be augmented with future downloadable content, Motive insisted that the game be 100% complete for release. Another oddity for a game published by EA, Squadrons does not have any type of microtransaction system. All customization options are purchased with in-game currency earned by playing the game.
Thus far, reception has been mixed. While some players embrace the challenge and immersion of such a detailed game, others find the near-simulator game style too difficult. As a result, used copies can already be found at a slight discount. With its attention to detail and level of immersion, Squadrons carries on the legacy of Star Wars dogfighting classics like Starfighter and Rogue Squadron as a huge technological evolutionary leap forward. Just be sure to loosen up and stay on target.
The next round of Department of Defense funding will come with an important requirement: Congress wants the Pentagon’s outmoded and highly toxic practice of burning old munitions and other explosives in the open air to finally come to a stop.
The language of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act made public in early May 2018, which proposes $717 billion in spending, also demands that the Pentagon report back to Congress with a specific plan for ending the centurylong burning of munitions.
“The Pentagon will have to tell us what it plans to do to stop this practice,” wrote U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, a Democrat from New Hampshire, in an emailed statement to ProPublica. Shea-Porter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, introduced the amendment to the spending bill that deals with open burns. Shea-Porter earlier led efforts to curb the Pentagon’s use of open burn pits at overseas bases — a practice believed by medical experts to have sickened thousands of U.S. soldiers — and she has often pressed for action against other defense-related pollution risks at home.
“If these answers aren’t satisfactory, I am hopeful that the Armed Services Committee will require the Defense Department to take appropriate action to curb this disturbing practice,” she wrote.
Shea-Porter told New Hampshire Public Radio that she and the Armed Services Committee took up the burn issue in 2018, after reading ProPublica’s reporting.
Neither a spokesperson for the office of the Secretary of Defense nor for the Army’s munitions department immediately responded to requests for comment. But in previous statements to ProPublica, the Department of Defense has maintained that its open burn practices have already been vastly curtailed over the past decade, and where they still take place today, they are both safer and far less expensive than alternatives.
Congress has pressed the Pentagon to phase out open burning for more than a quarter-century. In 2018, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine began studying the risks and impacts of the Pentagon’s burn practices.
The new bill would force the Defense Department to report back to Congress on the findings of this study and set out exactly what it will do to implement any recommendations made by the National Academies. The measure appears designed to spur the Pentagon to propose its own solutions, but could well lead to a law requiring regulatory action.
If the Defense Department cannot lay out a specific course of action, “it is essentially telling the Committee that it won’t do anything after the Committee explicitly said it was concerned about the practice,” a Congressional staff person with knowledge of the bill told ProPublica. “That typically doesn’t go over well. The intent here is to get DoD to take this seriously.”